Abortion: A Modern Holocaust?
In the last 40 years, the subject of abortion has erupted on the world stage and provoked international controversy—polarizing people, dividing countries and setting churches against states. Zealous supporters of abortion, calling themselves "pro-choice," debate and demonstrate with passion and zeal, countered by equally zealous opponents of abortion, calling themselves "pro-life." Confrontations between these two perspectives are often emotional and bitter, sometimes becoming violent—or even fatal! Battle lines have been drawn. One observer noted that "few issues have more thoroughly fragmented contemporary society" (The Ethics of Abortion, Baird & Rosenbaum, p. 7).
To understand this emotion-charged issue, it is helpful to know why abortion has emerged as such a controversial topic in our time, and to recognize what is ultimately at stake. Even more important is the question: where is the acceptance of abortion leading our society?
Why has abortion become a controversial issue in many countries of the world today? For centuries, abortion was scorned or forbidden in many countries around the globe. Yet in the last half of the 20th century, abortion was not merely accepted—it was embraced! With the declining influence of Judeo-Christian values, and the resulting rejection of biblical morality, many turned to permissive sexual behavior, and "reproductive rights" became a rallying cry as women abandoned traditional gender roles and sexually promiscuous men sought pleasure without any regard for the consequences. Simultaneously, amid fears of global overpopulation, governments began to subsidize—and sometimes even to require, as in China—abortion as a means of "birth control."
More than in most countries, the United States is divided on the issue of abortion, as many still respect biblical standards of morality. In Europe, abortion is a far less volatile issue, as only about 10 percent of the population attends church services regularly, compared to nearly half in the U.S.
In the U.S., pro-life activists are motivated by the magnitude of the abortion problem, yet the problem is even greater worldwide. Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion with the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, approximately 1.5 million abortions have been done every year—for a total of more than 40 million young lives snuffed out! More than six million babies have been killed in Britain since abortion was legalized there in 1967. In the former Soviet Union and East Bloc countries, the majority of pregnancies are terminated by abortion. In China, where abortion was legalized in 1957, more than 100 million abortions have occurred in the last four decades. In 1979, China adopted a "one child" policy, severely restricting most parents' opportunity to have a second child. With the development of ultrasound technology (through which parents can learn the gender of a child in the womb) has come the phenomenon of "sex-selective" abortions, in which families restricted to one child will kill their unborn daughters so that they can have a boy. Not surprisingly, observers note that the current generation of young urban Chinese includes noticeably more men than women!
In many countries—especially across Africa and Latin America—abortions are routinely done under conditions so unsafe that the mother is at grave risk of complications and suffering, or even death.
Around the world, it is estimated that between 40 and 50 million abortions occur annually (see The Abortion Debate, Kulczycki, p. 5). This means that about one in every four pregnancies are ended by induced abortion—poisoned, dismembered or suctioned out and discarded!
In Germany, during World War II, Adolf Hitler's Nazi movement killed an estimated six million Jews in what has become known as the Holocaust. After the war, those responsible for this barbaric act of cruelty were tried and convicted of crimes against humanity, and a morally outraged world saw them hanged for their crimes. Today, however, tens of millions of unborn babies die every year—many in the very same nations that sat in judgment at Nuremburg.
It is no wonder that many today call widespread abortion a modern holocaust. The mass murder of unborn babies, legal and socially acceptable in our modern nations, has exceeded by far the numbers killed in Germany under the Nazis, in Russia under Stalin, in China under Mao Zedong and in Cambodia under Pol Pot—yet few today are shocked or outraged! In fact, those who speak out against abortion are commonly labeled as backward and right-wing religious fanatics.
But how did we reach a point where modern, educated people—with a heritage of Christian values that regard abortion as illegal and immoral—now accept and even demand that abortion be recognized as a legal right? The answer lies in the arguments used by pro-abortionists, which cloud the real issues at the heart of the controversy. When examined closely, these arguments—though labeled "intellectual" and "progressive"—are revealed as shallow and one-sided, willfully ignoring basic facts of biology.
Pro-abortionists commonly argue that in the early stages of pregnancy a developing embryo is not really a human life, as it is only a "blob of tissue" that looks more like a tadpole than a human being. In fact, however, this differentiating collection of cells is developing in a way that will never result in a tadpole, or a tree or a monkey! By 10 to 12 weeks, this little individual will have a recognizable human face, arms, hands and fingers, legs, feet and toes. It appears to smile and suck its thumb, and it even responds to sounds! It is a miniature human being. Just because it does not appear human in the early weeks of development does not make it a "sub-human" creature!
Pro-abortionists like to cloud the issue of when life begins. They have argued that life does not begin until movement is felt, or the first breath is drawn, or until the fetus is viable on its own, to justify that abortion before these milestones is not really taking a human life. However, the biological fact is that life begins at the moment of conception. From that point, every cell in the developing embryo contains the exact number of chromosomes and all the genetic material that distinguishes this new human being from its parents. Some say that the fetus is just an organ—a part of the mother's body like the appendix or a hangnail—and that it is up to the mother to decide if she wants it removed. However, from conception a fetus has a different genetic makeup from any organ in the mother's body. Terminating this life by abortion takes the life of a genetically unique individual. Biologically, it is impossible to draw a line and say life begins at any other point than at conception. The fetus moves in the womb weeks before the mother feels any movement. While a fetus cannot survive on its own outside the mother's body, neither can a baby survive on its own after it is born! It must also be fed, nurtured and cared for by others for years before it can survive on its own.
Pro-abortionists have suggested that legal abortions, by reducing the number of "unwanted" pregnancies, reduce the incidence of child abuse since every child born will be wanted and loved. However, since abortion became legal, the incidence of child abuse has increased!
The argument that abortion must be legal in order to provide for cases of rape, incest or detectable birth defects ignores the fact that these reasons account for only a small fraction of abortions occurring today (see chart). Many abortions occur among sexually active adolescents for purely personal (and often selfish) reasons (Kulczycki, p. 1). Abortions on demand—"killing for convenience"—are frequently requested to avoid the responsibilities or embarrassment of unwanted conceptions (Slouching Towards Gomorrah, Bork, p. l80).
Noted jurist Robert Bork points out that the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion, was viewed by feminists as a "landmark on women's march to equality… the issue had nothing to do with the humanity of the fetus but was entirely about women's freedom" (Bork, p. 183). The pro-abortion argument likes to focus on a woman's rights—unless the woman is in her mother's womb!
Supporters of abortion rarely consider the lessons of history. In ancient pagan Greece and Rome, unwanted infants were exposed to the elements and left to die. Abortion was an accepted practice, and a variety of methods were available. Plato and Aristotle advocated abortion to limit family size. Although Roman law was pro-family, it was not anti-abortion. The decline of Rome saw an increase of crime, promiscuity—and abortion. Christianity, by contrast, forbade murder and taught that life was sacred, challenging pagan values and bringing about what some have called the "first abortion war" (see Christianity Today, October 6, 1989). This clash between Christian and pagan values (visible not only in Scripture, but in the early Church Fathers) shaped the anti-abortion attitudes of Western civilization for centuries.
Another "abortion war" erupted in the 1850s, when across the U.S. abortion began to gain new popularity, spurred by new values shaped by the Industrial Revolution. Medical doctors, however, backed restrictive laws to curtail abortions by unqualified practitioners, which also had the effect of limiting competition.
In the 1930s, Nazi Germany passed laws making it legal to kill the old and infirm. This principle was later extended to allow the murder of Jews, gypsies and other "unwanted" members of society. Nazi Germany actually restricted abortion, however, of those whose genetics were considered socially desirable.
It was not until the middle of the 20th century that the "abortion wars" reached their zenith. In the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. and U.K. followed the examples set by China and the Soviet Union, legalizing abortion. Centuries-old value systems were now being replaced by ancient pagan values of life in many nominally "Christian" nations around the world.
Fifty years ago, decent people were outraged to learn that Nazi doctors had experimented on living human beings for "scientific" purposes, and had harvested body parts for commercial use. Today, few are concerned that human tissue from aborted fetuses is even used in making face creams! How society has changed! Since abortion and euthanasia were legalized in Holland, estimates suggest that 8 percent of infants who die each year in the Netherlands are killed by doctors! One observer commented that "it took the Dutch almost 30 years for their medical practices to fall to the point that Dutch doctors are able to engage in the kind of euthanasia activities that got some German doctors hanged after Nuremberg."
The historical dimension of the abortion controversy is sobering. But what about the moral question? Is abortion right or wrong? What does the Bible say?
The Apostle Paul wrote: "But if anyone does not provide for his own [family]… he has denied the faith" (1 Timothy 5:8). Would anyone argue that a Christian can provide for a family member by killing him? Remember: one of the Ten Commandments specifically condemns murder (Exodus 20:13). In other words, any birth control method that induces abortion is wrong.
Moses warned the Israelites not to practice the wicked customs of their Canaanite neighbors—which included infanticide—the killing of children. He instructed: "You shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire… for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods" (Deuteronomy 18:9–14; 12:31).
King David described that the Israelites angered God because they "sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons [false gods], and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and daughters" (Psalms 106:32–39). The prophet Ezekiel thundered God's warning that, having forgotten God, they had "slain My children… blood is on their hands. They have… sacrificed their sons whom they have born to Me, passing them through the fire, to devour them" (Ezekiel 16:21; 23:37).
In direct defiance of God's instructions, ancient Israel had adopted barbaric pagan practices of child killing! In response, the prophet Jeremiah warned: "Also on your skirts is found the blood of the lives of the poor innocents… Behold, I will bring such a catastrophe on this place, that whoever hears of it, his ears will tingle, because they have forsaken Me… therefore behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that this place shall no more be called Tophet or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom [where children were sacrificed], but the Valley of Slaughter [when God uses foreign nations to punish His people for killing their own children]" (see Jeremiah 2:34; 19:3–7). These passages reveal how God views the slaughter of children, whether they are infants or unborn babies!
Modern "ethicists" like Peter Singer of Princeton University have offered arguments that an unborn fetus is less than human. This idea is not new; it was common to many ancient pagan philosophers as well. However, this approach is clearly refuted in the Bible. God told Jeremiah: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). An angel told Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, that John would "also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15). The Bible reveals that God regards unborn babies as human beings, and that killing human infants, born or unborn, will incur the wrath of Almighty God! Our modern secular society has forgotten these powerful warnings!
But where is the drive to legalize abortion leading modern nations? What is the acceptance of abortion doing to our societies? Judge Robert Bork calls the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion, an attempt by liberal secular elites to impose their values on the rest of the nation (see Bork, p. 174). He observes: "Abortion has coarsened us" and it reflects "the brutalization of our culture" (ibid., p. 182). He states: "The systematic killing of unborn children in huge numbers is part of a general disregard for human life that has been growing for some time. Abortion… deepens and legitimates the nihilism [disregard for traditional values] that is spreading in our culture and finds killing for convenience acceptable" (ibid, p. 192).
British social critic Peter Hitchens makes a similar observation, that abortion "corrupts any society which freely permits it. The idea that innocent life may be lawfully ended for the convenience of others or for the alleged good of society, once generally accepted, devastates the rule of law itself" (The Spectator, August 7, 2004). British columnist Bruce Anderson comments: "Over the last 40 years, the abortion clinic has become an indispensable part of the life-support system of the permissive society. The unrestricted enjoyment of sexual license requires not only contraception but retroactive contraception [abortion]" (The Spectator, July 17, 2004).
Even those who try to frame the debate in terms of "reproductive rights" cannot honestly deny the negative social trends that have accompanied the acceptance of abortion. They can only say that in their value system, these negative trends are a price worth paying. Ultimately, two questions are involved—whose values will prevail, and who will control society? Dr. Andrzej Kulczycki, a United Nations consultant, has observed that "the debate about abortion reflects a conflict over who runs society"—social liberals or religious and social conservatives—"their disagreements reflect very different understandings of the fetus, of the woman, and indeed of how the world should be structured" (The Abortion Debate, Kulczycki, pp. 157, 18). These conflicting views are at the heart of the bitter cultural wars that are polarizing people and dividing nations today.
It is significant that abortion is now widely accepted in many cultures that historically called themselves "Christian." Bible prophecy warns that "in the last days" people will be "lovers of themselves [focused on their own rights and desires to the exclusion of concern for others]… unloving [callous and without natural affection—mothers for their own children]… brutal" (2 Timothy 3:1–5). These prophecies accurately describe our world today, yet these trends will grow far worse in years to come. Thankfully, the return of Jesus Christ will soon usher in the Kingdom of God, and bring about a return to biblical values that will include "turning the hearts of the fathers [and mothers] to their children." Then, finally, the tragic modern holocaust of abortion will become a thing of the past!
Children of Carthage
Today's nations should learn a grim lesson from the way children were treated in ancient Carthage, and from the fate that befell the city. In 300BC, Carthage was the center of a rich trading empire, and was a rival of Rome. Its citizens were wealthy, cultured and educated, yet remarkably callous about taking human life. Unwanted orphans and widows were killed "to reduce the amount of poverty and suffering in the city" ( When Nations Die, Black, p. 164). Carthaginians burned thousands of their own children to appease their patron goddess, Tanet. Ancient writers report that frequent public sacrifices "took place in front of a bronze statue of the god, with arms outstretched over a blazing fire; the child slid down over the arms and fell" into the flames ( The Phoenicians and the West, Aubet, p. 211). The necropolis at Carthage contains more than 20,000 urns with charred remains of infants and children. This gruesome practice finally ended when the Romans besieged and destroyed Carthage in 146BC.
Historian Jim Nelson Black wondered how the murder of unborn children in modern societies is any different from the murder of children in ancient Carthage? He asked: "Isn't the rite of abortion our culture's sacrifice to the gods of materialism and greed? The Phoenicians killed many thousands of children… But in the entire history of Carthage or of Rome, they never killed 30 million in the name of "a woman's right to control her own body" (Black, p. 166).
The media lavished much attention on the famous Roman Catholic nun, Mother Teresa, but only infrequently reported her stinging rebukes of contemporary society. Mother Teresa likened abortion to "a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?… Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of peace and love is abortion" ( ibid., pp. 214–215).
Carthage continued its barbaric practice of murdering children until the day it was destroyed. Will our society today, which permits far greater evil, do the same?
—Douglas S. Winnail
Killing For Convenience
|Reasons Given for Abortion:|
|Having a baby will change my life||76%|
|Cannot afford a baby now||68%|
|Want to avoid single parenthood||51%|
|Unready for responsibility||31%|
|Don't want others to know of pregnancy||31%|
|Not mature enough to have a child||30%|
|Fetus has a health problem||7%|
|Woman was victim of rape or incest||1%|
(Family Planning Perspectives, July/August 1988, pp. 169–170)